BELFAST, Maine — Julio Carrillo learned Wednesday he will spend 55 years in prison for his role in the beating death of his 10-year-old stepdaughter Marissa Kennedy. But the case is far from being resolved.
State prosecutors now are shifting focus to the murder trial of Carrillo’s estranged wife, 34-year-old Sharon Carrillo. Her trial is scheduled to take place in December at the Waldo Judicial Center in Belfast.
“We have begun the process of holding [them] accountable for Marissa’s death,” Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea said Wednesday, following Carrillo’s sentencing.
Although prosecutors had pushed for a life sentence for Julio Carrillo, Zainea said it’s unlikely the 52-year-old man will ever get out of prison.
Donald Macomber, another assistant attorney general who is working on the criminal cases against the Carrillos, said that in this kind of crime, a satisfactory outcome may not be possible to obtain, but the state will do its best.
“Nothing’s going to bring Marissa back,” he said. “We will do what we can to achieve justice.”
Marissa Kennedy was found dead in February 2018 in the Stockton Springs condo where her family was living. Although the Carrillos initially told investigators the girl had suffered a fatal accident while watching a movie by herself in the basement, it didn’t take long before both admitted to police they had severely beaten her. An autopsy found that Marissa Kennedy died of battered child syndrome, with wounds on her body — both old and new — bearing witness to her physical suffering.
Julio Carrillo changed his plea to guilty last month and admitted his responsibility in the role of his stepdaughter’s death. But Sharon Carrillo’s legal team has steadfastly denied that she was responsible for her daughter’s death and claimed that she also was mentally and physically abused by him. Among the evidence submitted in the case is a photo taken from Julio Carrillo’s cell phone that allegedly shows both Marissa Kennedy and Sharon Carrillo kneeling naked on the tile floor of the family’s condo, with their hands held over their heads.
In January 2019, Sharon Carrillo filed a petition to annul their marriage. The couple has three surviving children, including a 1-year-old who was born while his mother was in jail. All the kids have been adopted by Julio Carrillo’s parents and now live in New York state.
Laura Shaw, part of Sharon Carrillo’s defense team, said after the hearing Wednesday that her client likely will be satisfied with her husband’s 55-year prison sentence. Previously, the defense attorneys have said the state ought to drop charges against Sharon Carrillo after her husband pleaded guilty.
“Her perspective has always been that Julio Carrillo caused the death of Marissa,” Shaw said.
But Julio Carrillo’s attorney, Darrick X. Banda, said on the courthouse steps that he expects his client will testify during his estranged wife’s trial and continue to cooperate with state prosecutors.
“It’s likely you will see him back in December,” Banda said, adding that it is possible that Sharon Carrillo’s attorneys will call Julio Carrillo to testify on her behalf. “That may backfire on them.”
Tania Molina, Juilo Carrillo’s older sister, also spoke briefly after the hearing, saying that her extended family was planning to be at Sharon Carrillo’s trial.
“We’ll be there 150 percent,” she said.
During her brother’s hearing, Molina told the court that she considered Marissa Kennedy a part of her family.
“Marissa was a beautiful, beautiful little girl,” she said. “Never once did I see my brother violent towards Marissa or violent towards his wife.”
On the steps, Banda teased reporters with a little information about a new piece of physical evidence he suggested could be important in the trial.
“It’s like Marissa’s speaking from the grave,” he said, declining to give further details.
After the sentencing Wednesday, Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, told reporters that there is still a lot of work to do to fix the shortcomings in Maine’s child protective services system.
Marissa Kennedy’s death brought statewide attention to those problems.
“I don’t think we can leave it all to [the Maine Department of Health and Human Services],” Diamond said. “This is the responsibility of all of us. To continue on, having to rely on one department, it can’t be done.”